April 5, 2012


As I write these words, I am in mourning for a mouse. In part, I blame my upbringing — all those childhood stories where animals behaved like people. Every month, when I was old enough to read, a comic book arrived  at my house filled with stories about a girl and her two friends: a pink pony and a tiny field mouse named Sniffles. I still recall the heroine’s magic chant to shrink herself to mouse size:

          “Poof, poof, poof piffles.

          Make me just as small as Sniffles.”

Disney also taught me to think of animals as people. First there was Bambi, Dumbo, Peter Rabbit and, of course, Mickey Mouse to love.

(courtesy: yourpestguy.com)

Rationally, I know animals are different from me, but my emotional response hasn’t matured since I was a child. I don’t eat meat out of respect for my fellow creatures. If there is an animal cause to which I haven’t contributed, it’s because I haven’t found it.

Until recently, we humans took our dominance over other creatures as a given.  Now ecology is teaching us the error of our ways. 

Animal rights are on my mind because yesterday I discovered a mouse in my kitchen and today the exterminator came. He tried to console me as I fretted over his talk of poison. “Mice in the kitchen are unhealthy. And besides, they don’t live long.”

I thought of a sequoia that endures for thousands of years. Is a human span of 100 less precious because it’s shorter that a tree’s? No, I wasn’t consoled by the exterminator’s argument. A vegetarian shouldn’t kill mice. I wanted to blame Walt Disney for my feelings. But Disney isn’t responsible for life’s habit of posing questions that force us to confront who we are.  

Today, I chose my health above a mouse’s existence. Tomorrow, who knows what question will be posed or how I shall  answer it. I hope my next decision won’t leave me feeling as desolate as the one I’ve just made. But the future must wait.   Today, I mourn for the mouse and me.